I have never shared my story for a couple of reasons. One, as an attorney, I’ve had to be careful about separating my professional from my personal. That fear that somehow that’s the one thing people out there will hold onto about myself created some fear that my professional life could be hurt. The second reason was the repercussions it could have on my family relationships. While it’s no secret where I stand on abortion rights, I have kept my own the personal is political story private. But, if I’m honest, the primary reason I have never told my story is because I never thought it was all that compelling. I am the poster woman pro-lifer’s hate: the woman who made a mistake in bed and now wants an abortion.
I had my abortion when I was 30. I had financial support, it was a mutual decision with the other person, and I had friends and family who helped me through the decisionmaking process. That process of thinking that maybe I do want a child and maybe this will be the only time I’m presented with that opportunity, to recognizing the stark reality that I didn’t have the funds to do this; that my emotional health was very much in choppy waters territory – the fact that I was in this situation was some evidence of that; and that raising a child with someone who didn’t love me and who maybe didn’t want to be a dad would not only be a heartbreaking ordeal for me, but would be an even harder one for any child. I was in CA, too, so I didn’t have to wait or pay additional costs of traveling like many people do here in Texas. There were enough clinics in my city, though some parts of California do experience this.I didn’t experience extra prodding and the providing of false information about my body. It was simple and easy –the way it should be for everyone. My life went on. I lived the perfect post-Roe experience, and I wondered how my story would ever be compelling or persuasive to any elected official.
Instead of sharing my story, I dug into working with reproductive rights organizations: I fundraised for Texas Equal Access Fund, I kept up to date through NARAL’s advocacy, and I worked with Jane’s Due Process, an organization that helps teenage girls get judicial permission to obtain an abortion. Did you know, in TX, teenagers must obtain parental consent before they can choose what to do about their pregnancies? Because abortion is a constitutional right, TX must also provide a recourse for those girls who cannot go to their parents. So, these teenagers must go before a judge and ask for permission: they must give their sexual histories; they must demonstrate minute details about abortion procedures; they must tell their plans for the future; they must have a compelling story and, sometimes, even then, it’s not enough for a judge to give them the power to decide. I felt like my story was not compelling as their stories. What do I have to add to their experiences? If those aren’t enough to cause our leaders to think about reproductive rights and justice in a different way, then certainly my story is not enough, I thought.
But as the onslaught of attacks continues, and as I see Democratic Party leaders show a forthright willingness to stray away from defending a woman’s right to choose, I began to get angrier than I’ve ever been. This right to choose is tied to everything – the right to healthcare, the right to economic opportunity; the right to be free from government intrusion into our liberty. We have seen what happens when the state seeks to limits a woman’s ability to access healthcare and abortion services – they die. And you wonder, does anyone care that we are dying? In this city we see what happens when leaders ignore reproductive health and justice. Dallas County has one of the highest rates of HIV infections in the county; and it has one of the largest income gaps between rich and poor than other urban areas. These are all tied together and when a woman’s right to choose is attacked, then her access to overall healthcare is affected; her economic livelihood is affected; and her opportunities are limited. And men feel it, too. We all feel it.
I am angry that our leaders want to play politics with my body. I am angry that so many other leaders are so scared of these bullies on the right that they will bow, retreat, backtrack, and ignore us. I’m angry that I don’t see the importance behind my own story, because even I have fallen for some of the rhetoric designed to confuse us. I am telling my story now, because my story doesn’t have to be compelling to be worthy of telling. We should not have to drag out compelling stories to be heard. Our stories do not have to be compelling to entitle us to protection under the U.S. Constitution. Our stories do not have to be compelling to demand that leaders stop playing us as their pawns and start listening to our solutions. Our stories do not have to be compelling to entitle us to basic human rights. I tell my story because my story is what makes me. I tell my story, because I finally realized that my story isn’t compelling because it didn’t have to be. The CA government let me choose and didn’t throw up the hurdles that would have turned my story into something else. And that freedom is what every woman and man in this city deserve. Texans deserve abortion access.
Photo courtesy of Melissa Thrailkill